Dreaming of my Daughter

I was 24 years old, performing at a dinner theater. I had a graduate degree and a whole life ahead of me with aspirations of becoming an actress. That summer I was free as a bird and full of high hopes and dreams. It was sometime in April that I slipped up and spent the night with an old ex-boyfriend, who was no longer in my life. I had always had irregular periods, so I didn’t give it a second thought that it had been a couple of months since my last period. But something inside me made me go to Planned Parenthood to have a pregnancy test. The result was positive. I drove home from work to look in the yellow pages for “abortion.” Since I was close to 12 weeks along, I had to make a quick decision. I made an appointment for the next week, called my ex-boyfriend, told him he needed to come with me and spend the night to take care of me after the surgery, and pay for half. That was that.

Fast forward. Throughout my twenties, I anxiously wondered if I would ever get married and had a few relationships, but none were Mr. Right. I had become irritable, and I came to see that around June 1st of each year I was especially ornery, and I had developed a pretty bad temper – easily agitated, impatient, and intolerant. Constantly keeping busy to numb a guilt I had suppressed, my life was full. But the busy-ness was a mechanism to survive – suppressing the truth of the damage I had done to myself, my baby, and my relationship with God. I was a strong feminist – it was the 80’s after all, and women had rights.

After meeting and dating for four years an exceptionally kind man who respected my intelligence and independence, I married happily, looking forward to a life filled with blessings. He was not ready to have children and I had another four years of waiting. We ended up blessed with 3 boys, but somewhere along the way I was overcome by a great depression. I had visions of a beautiful little girl coming to me in mind’s eye. I knew I was meant to have a baby girl. She was going to be talented, maybe an actress, a dancer, a singer, or a writer. I yearned for her with excruciating pain. My desire for her to arrive was filled with angst and frustration. Why is God punishing me with only sons? Was I destined to live without the life-giving bond that happens with a mother-daughter relationship? Who would truly understand my needs and care for me in my old age?

I sought out other women in my church, to find solace and intimacy in a life filled with diapers and talk of babies. My faith began to grow and I attended a Cursillo, (a weekend retreat of faith talks, confession, and mass). It was there that the Holy Spirit revealed to me the true source of my pain, an unresolved death – I had killed my baby girl 17 years earlier, and she had been coming to me all these years to reveal her existence. She wanted me to know that I only needed to seek her out, come to know her, and I would be forgiven and peace would finally be granted to me. But first I was to undergo the deepest despair and depression I have ever experienced. I attended a Project Rachel retreat, where forgiveness and healing finally began. It took one full year of psychological and faith-filled counseling, several confessions, and much prayer, before I achieved any ability to reconcile what I had done with my faith.

I had been a victim of a society that had taught me that there are no hard values of right or wrong – our rights are a matter of personal choice, and we were to respect any choice. But what those lies don’t tell you is that when you commit a wrong, your conscience beckons until you ask for forgiveness, and then sometimes the hardest part is forgiving yourself.

It was the Catholic Church that provided me with the only true solace I could ever receive, the merciful and tender love of Christ, who took me right where I was and held me in His arms. Once I had embraced the cross with Him, and understood it would be my testimony to witness for His mercy and glory, I began to see a purpose in my suffering and have hope.

Today, with 3 grown sons and the joys and sufferings of their trials and tribulations, I rely on my faith to get me through each day. It is only by trusting that the Lord, in His infinite mercy, wisdom, and love, will work through my daily labors to provide the grace to see me through each day.

 

***EDITOR’S NOTE: If you or someone you know has been involved with abortion, or is having an unexpected pregnancy, please contact Project Rachel post-abortion healing or Gabriel Project pregnancy help for confidential support and assistance.

Healing and Purifying my Past

I have been married for over 20 years. Before I married, I engaged in premarital sex. I was shy and didn’t know how to talk to guys, so I ended up drinking to get over that and that led to a lot of other troubles.  I mainly went to parties and nightclubs where drinking was common.  I would get drunk and end up going too far.

When I was 20 I had a baby that I placed for adoption. My boyfriend offered to marry me. He was a nice guy and wanted to do the right thing, but I did not think marriage was the answer. I found adoptive parents for my baby through someone that I worked for.  I met with the parents and we seemed to click.  When the baby, a boy, was born, they came to see me and the two families spent the evening together celebrating this new little life.  I was very sure that I had made the correct decision. My heart caught up with my head about 7 months after Eric was born. I mourned for a long time. A few years later I wrote to the adoptive mother through the adoption attorney. I simply wanted to know what Eric was like and if he was okay.  His mother wrote back and sent pictures. We continued to write and exchange pictures.

I was certainly not a great Catholic and I had no idea what the Church really taught about sex. But I did not like the idea of contraception. Outside of marriage, I did “dabble” in it. I was on the Pill for a month or so but I wasn’t comfortable with it and I learned that I had high cholesterol and that put me at risk for heart disease, so I stopped taking it. I also used barrier methods once in a while. My boyfriend(s) did not want a baby, so I went along with them. I wanted  to live a good life, but was easily swayed by the popular opinion of the time. I had a lot of ups and downs with attempting to live a chaste life, but I knew that it was what I should be doing. I longed to be a wife and mother. I didn’t understand how to live as a single woman.

When I met my husband, my life changed. My husband was not Catholic at the time, but he was open to life and wanted children. We got pregnant right away and were delighted. But because each of us had lived unchaste lives before marriage, there were some problems. I had always felt used by men, so that carried over into my marriage.  My husband could see nothing wrong with stripper bars, Playboy or racy movies. He no longer did any of these things, at my urging, but we argued about it anyway from time to time. One time he was expected to go to a bachelor party at a topless bar. It was the old argument that it was “one last time” for the groom,  my husband wasn’t interested but he was willing to do this for his friend. I think he had never been challenged to defend it before and when he tried to explain to me why it was OK, it changed him. HE was married. HE supposedly had said goodbye to those days. Lusting after women is a bad thing, especially in the case of a married man.  Wanting sex for its own pleasure is wrong.  It is not what God intended.  No one, other than me, had said to him that this was wrong.

Then I heard of Theology of the Body. I started reading about it and went to hear speakers explaining it. It made me think about things I learned in high school about contraception and why it was wrong. The Catholic teaching of marital love is so beautiful! It was what I had longed for but hadn’t understood.

My husband converted to the Catholic Church 15 years ago. What a blessing that was! My husband is my rock, steady and sure and once he makes a decision, he sticks with it. A few years back I read the book Every Man’s Battle aloud to my husband while we were driving on vacation. It was healing and tough. We talked about it at great length. I listened to the pain in his heart as he spoke about how men struggle with purity. I started praying in a new way. I asked Jesus to heal my past and my husband’s past. I asked Him to purify our memories. Our arguments about sexual issues ceased. We were on the same page. Slowly, my old memories stopped torturing me. My interest and desire for marital love increased. And it keeps on growing! I am thankful that God is the third person in our marriage.

We have grown so much in our marriage.  Thankfully, we were always open to life and now have 8 children! I know that God has blessed our union and continues to.  Being open to children has helped us be ready for the graces and healing that God sends us. We both would like more children, but time is no longer on our side. Having children, teaching them about the faith, going to daily Mass, reading books like Dressing with Dignity, meeting other Catholic women who were doing the same, all these things led me to a deeper understanding of how the Church views chastity.

We have no regrets about our fertility. We left it to God, trusting that He would send us as many children as He desired. God has blessed us with good health and steady jobs for my husband. We never found reasons to not be open. Many have asked us if we use NFP or assume we do. We don’t. We just trust in God. He has led us on a great adventure so far!

One of those Big Catholic Families

I don’t know when it was that my family became one of those Big Catholic Families. I only remember realizing that other women might be looking at me the way I looked at those other mothers of Big Catholic Families, and could they see what a fraud I was? I am simply not like those other women, who all seem so prayerful, content, proud of their lives, really devout models of motherhood for all of us, right?

Then I realized, maybe they aren’t like that either. They seem like models of perfected motherhood, but maybe their kids drive them crazy, or maybe they try not to regret that they can’t do more in that career that they loved, or they also are frightened each time they find themselves pregnant again.

Several babies ago I was done, as we hear so many moms say. I was dealing with postpartum depression, a houseful of toddlers, family difficulties, and a vision of the future as years of the same chaos. I thought I made it clear to God that I had done more than my share in His procreation thing. But when He brought the next pregnancies – and as many miscarriages as deliveries – I understood that I might have been done, but God wasn’t, and I let Him take over for me. He got me through those struggles, even turning the struggles into joys, or at least helping me see the joy after the struggle.

My husband and I aren’t the best example of a modern understanding of the Church’s teaching on natural family planning, if you consider NFP a way to prevent pregnancies. But if you consider that the purpose of God’s plan for your body and your marriage is to share in His plan, and that NFP helps in that sharing, it has been a gift for me and my husband. We don’t do very well with sympto-thermal stuff, it’s true, but we’ve been forced to cling to each other through the struggles, finding joy in what we didn’t plan but God gave us anyway.

So I’m not one of those holy mothers of Big Catholic Families, because the mother who is constantly and consistently holy – well, there was only one, and her only child was God. I find comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one who actually has to work to reach peace in my life. I’ve had to struggle to accept God’s will and I continue to struggle to become closer to Him, just like every other woman out there. If we as women can look at each other and remember that we each have different challenges and choices, that this isn’t easy for anyone, no matter how easy it looks for some, maybe we can help each other more in our journeys to Christ.

Submitted from Virginia